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Shop Santa Clara: Trade-a-Book Offers Bookworm Delights

When you think of rare and out-of-print books, San Francisco is much more likely to jump to your mind than Santa Clara. Indeed, as the home of the iconic Beat bookstore City Lights, and the vintage pulp shangri-la Kayo Books, it’s hard to compete with the city north of us.

However with gas prices knocking at the door of $5, aficionados of the printed word may want to pursue their avocation a little closer to home at the Trade-a-Book ( used-book store on El Camino.

Tucked into the Moonlite Center (between Office Depot and Hometown Buffet), Trade-a-Book’s unpretentious storefront gives no hint of garden of bookish pleasures within. You can also browse online if you don’t feel like putting your shoes on.


Trade-a-Book’s website says that the store has 40,000 volumes, and its claim to fame is an unrivalled collection of romance novels. Indeed, at least a third of the floor space is given to Nora Roberts, Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer, Jude Devereaux, Nicholas Sparks and an army of less-knowns. And what will be especially pleasing to romance fans is that books are arranged in numerical order.

Pricing is simple and reasonable. Most books are 50 percent of the cover price, except for new releases (60 percent), and collectables, which are market priced. The store also accepts trades, allowing 5 to 20 percent of cover price in store credit. The store is open every day – although they don’t trade books on Sunday.

Collectors of the obscure may be interested in a complete set of the forgotten – perhaps deservedly so – early 20th century historical novels of John R. Musick, or “The history of Human Marriage,” by Edward Westermark, circa 1922.

Westermark devotes the bulk of his anthropological study to what he calls “A Criticism of the Hypothesis of Promiscuity.” This is amusing, when you note that Westermark’s book is sitting next to the pioneering study of late 20th century promiscuity, Gay Talese’s “Thy Neighbor’s Wife.”

Less obscure is a pre-1900, numbered-edition complete set of the works of Washington Irving. Also of note: an 1875 edition of the Memoirs of General William T. Sherman and an 1899 illustrated set of the complete works of Mark Twain.

Trade-a-Book also boasts an outstanding collection of vintage noir novels and mysteries, including a hardcover edition of an early outing by Mickey Spillane’s hardboiled detective Mike Hammer, “Kiss Me Deadly.” Science fiction and fantasy readers will also find much to love at Trade-a-Book.

There is one volume, however, you will not find at Trade-a-Book: a 1963 signed edition of maverick journalist I.F. Stone’s collection, “The Haunted Fifties.” That’s because I bought it.

Carolyn Schuk can be reached at


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